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College of Arts and Sciences

Cynthia Shen

Class of 2020

 Cynthia Shen

Hometown(s): Shanghai, China and Cupertino, CA

What is your College Scholar project? 
My College Scholar project explores how technological innovation drives the evolution of medicine and the healthcare system on all scales, from single patients to global health. The healthcare field is faced with a myriad of challenges from the inefficiencies of patient data management systems to social inequalities in access and quality of healthcare. Healthcare related technologies can be the powerful solutions to these challenges, but as they increase in their sophistication and power, so do the magnitudes of challenges and questions they pose. How will digitalization, automation, and the employment of AI technologies shape patient-doctor relationships by assisting or replacing physician functions and human-to-human interactions integral to the healing process? How do we address ethical issues regarding collection, access, and usage of Big Data in health? How can technology reduce, rather than widen, health disparities? Driven by these inquiries, I seek to gain a deep understanding of the dynamic interplay between technology and medicine through multiple lenses: historically, anthropologically, sociologically, economically, and politically. My exploration consists of the history of medicine and technology, healthcare as an industry and a social institution, recent advancements in healthcare-related technologies, and the resulting ethical issues and social ramifications.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities?
I conduct research in Professor Melissa Warden’s lab which employs techniques such as optogenetics to explore neural circuitries involved in mediating reward and motivation. From running behavioral tests on mice to performing data analysis, working in the lab has opened my eyes to the power and potential of technology in advancing human knowledge about the mysterious, intricate, and complex machine that is the human brain. It has been a privilege to serve as a member of the Student Assembly on a Health and Wellness subcommittee which seeks to better understand and improve the state of student access to and utilization of care provided at Cornell Health. As a volunteer with YOURS, I have found much joy and fulfillment in weekly mentoring a child from the local trailer parks, through activities such as performing science experiments and reading together. Last but not least, I’m immensely grateful for having found a second family through Cru and Emmaus Road, the campus fellowship and church I am a part of.

Talk about any summer internships or programs you’ve attended?
The summer after my freshman year, I volunteered at a local community health center where I helped patients enroll in and navigate the clinic’s new electronic health portal. It was humbling and inspiring to contribute to the work of the clinic in serving low-income and immigrant families and individuals through providing quality and affordable healthcare. I witnessed first-hand the challenges faced by community health centers with limited funding when attempting to optimize operations and improve the patient experience through the employment of new technologies, in the face of cultural and financial barriers of the population served. 

What do you dream of doing after graduation?
After graduation, I want to delve deeper into the fields of public health and medicine, and use that knowledge to make a positive impact. I aspire to lead a career devoted to helping people through improving their health and well-being, be it through practicing medicine, working in public health, conducting research, or doing a combination of the above. Whatever I do, I strive to work at it with all my heart, in thanksgiving for the incredible blessings and privileges I have been afforded.